MTCI, UNDP, and IADE are launching Awarding Ceremony on Innovative Competition Program in Promoting MSMEs and Social Business Ideas

“Enhance Entrepreneurial Innovation for The Economic Recovery”

November 25, 2021

MTCI Business Innovation Challenge 2021 Awarding Ceremony

Dili, 25 November 2021, The Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, and Industry (MTCI) together with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Institute of Business development support in Timor-Leste awarded the Innovation Competition Program which aims to encourage Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and young people with unique and innovative social business ideas across a range of sectors. The thematic Innovation Challenge, “ENHANCE ENTREPRENEURIAL INNOVATION FOR THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY”, focuses on key economic sectors such as agriculture and fisheries, tourism, commerce, manufacturing, food production, and cross-cutting innovative technology sector as well as others that have high economic value and contribute to solving communities’ problems.

The main objective of the challenge is to encourage a strong establishment of MSMEs prioritizing job creation, social entrepreneurship spirit, environmental innovation, and youth involvement in the economic development of the country. It will further help achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth. The Business Innovation Challenge is an opportunity for start-ups and MSMEs to implement new ideas and design innovative initiatives to continue improving the quality of their products, production processes, and customer service and to optimize their operation to achieve their economic targets.

In his remarks, the Minister Dr. Jose Lucas do Carmo da Silva, emphasises on the “Innovation Challenge” The word innovation and challenge put weight on each of your shoulder with huge responsibility. Innovation means, new business ideas or new methodology to develop product or service and it links with the ability of the person to develop his/her business that is profitable and sustainable. And of course each business venture come its own challenge, which is your competitor. The more advance your business, the more challenging it will become. Thus, requires your gut and creativity to provide your unique product, different and attractive to your customers.

Further, Minister Da Silva, highlights that one of the challenge for youth entrepreneurs is the changing of consumer preference as well as rapid changing of technology. Nonetheless, MTCI has come up with this business innovation challenge to nurture and inculcate youth and MSMEs to develop their unique and innovative business ideas.

Meanwhile, at the awarding ceremony of the youth innovation Challenge, UNDP’s Timor-Leste Country Representative Ms. Tuya Altangerel, spoke directly to the young entrepreneurs of Timor-Leste: “You are the future of the country”.

Ms. Altangerel noted the impact of the covid pandemic around the world, showing the fragilities of nations in the face of external and internal shocks, but also highlighting the opportunities that can be created. “The pandemic and other challenges such as the recent floods open the opportunities to re-start, and to relaunch more sustainable and resilient development pathways – by prioritizing our blue planet, people, and shared prosperity”, she said.

A total of 290 candidates from the 12 municipalities and RAEOA applied to the competition and 43 out of 290 applicants were shortlisted for the pre-Bootcamps. After the pre-Bootcamp, 30 candidates are selected to participate in the Bootcamp program run by the National Secretariat for Social Business Program under MTCI during the next 3 months. The selected groups will also get access to the regional springboard program of Youth Co: Lab, UNDP. Today best 10 ideas have been presented on the Innovative Competition Program and the 5 most promising ones are chosen to receive grants to grow their innovative start-ups.

Among other initiatives is the Loan Guarantee Facility for entrepreneurs and social businesses, implemented jointly by UNDP, MTCI, and BNCTL. The Facility backs soft loans with a 3 percent interest rate and a grace period of up to 6 months. This unique mechanism allows businesses led by youth to grow and in turn generate employment for others. As of October 2021, there were 70 proposals have been submitted to MTCI, among those 13 have already been approved by BNCTL to receive a loan. Among successful borrowers are 5 youth groups/individuals who have attended entrepreneurs training at Knua Juventude Fila Lima.  Many more youth entrepreneurs will benefit from soft loans in near future.

UNDP has also provided entrepreneurship training to 65 youth this year and will continue assisting them to set up their businesses and access the Loan Guarantee Facility.

UNDP also implements the Youth Internship Program to equip and prepare youth with the professional skills to join the labor force. The program engages 24 institutions and businesses that agreed to host interns. A total of 66 young people participated in the Youth Internship Program, which became for them one of the important stepping-stones in their professional career, increased their employability.

“Through these complementary initiatives we have re-designed and re-invigorated UNDP’s focus on employment and skills development for the 21st-century labor market and building communities resilient to climate-induced disasters”, Ms. Altangerel said. “The work does not stop here, and we are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities and innovations to ensure that the growth and shared prosperity is owned by the young generation of Timorese. The future is in the hands of the youth – let’s give them the right tools, support, and incentives to achieve their best”.

Concurrently, the Government of Timor-Leste through MTCI has committed to keeping on implementing the ongoing program such as soft loan which will be further topped up and expanded to other financial institutions as its decree-law governing the soft loans was just been approved by the Council of Ministers yesterday, 24 November 2021. MTCI will also establish a business incubation center and a building facility to accumulate local MSMEs and provide them with tailor-made training programs as well as link them with angel investors and build an ecosystem for business networking. In terms of regulatory frameworks, MTCI will also prepare a holistic and inclusive MSMEs policy to guide and provide direction to all the stakeholders to synch each of the assistance in a coordinated manner.

As for the continuation of the Business Innovation Challenge Program, MTCI has also committed to continuing the program for next year with an upgraded version. This is part of the Government’s commitment to recover the Timor-Leste economy as highlighted in the Economic Recovery Plan.